Preparedness and Good Spirit Add Up to Cocktail Competition Victory
By Naren Young
All photos courtesy of 42 Below Vodka
Cocktail competitions, for many contestants, can be a nerve wracking, knee trembling and downright frightening experience that can make or ruin your reputation in a heartbeat. There is a serious amount of dedication that is required to be the victor; it’s not simply a matter of turning up on the day and making a drink for a judging panel that could consist of a bikini model, a news anchor, an over the hill bar keep, a drunk bar owner or the President of the International Bartender’s Association.
Winning a cocktail competition in this day and age, when there is often one a week in many major ‘cocktail cities’ can take months of planning, research and practice. It requires tasting, refining, tasting again, writing a speech, practicing it over and over, a dress rehearsal, tasting again, asking your friends and colleagues for advice, buying new tools, buying back up tools, testing the tools and of course tasting the drink again. All this before you’ve even gone on stage.
In many ways, cocktail competitions are to be commended and encouraged. Sure, there’s a slew of boring and incompetently organized cocktail competitions over the years (thank God there was alcohol on those occasions), but for the most part they promote camaraderie (despite the obviously fierce competitive nature of them), allow like-minded professionals (sometimes from other parts of the world) to share ideas and discuss experiments; and solidify friendships over the course of several lubricating libations.
Nowhere was this more evident than at the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup, held every year in New Zealand, the home of this award winning antipodean vodka. The event started in 2004 in Queenstown on that country’s South Island and even this year, the first few days were spent in this picturesque ski town, with competitors from all over the world partaking in a series of extreme activities that have not only made this competition so unique but has put it on the radar of any serious bartender around the world.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this particular event is the fact that people compete in teams of three, representing their country and not themselves. Until recently, 42 bartenders were flown in (at great expense), making for 14 teams (this year that number was halved). Bartending, at its very core, can be very competitive and there is certainly no shortage of egos in our Continue Reading…